Thus far the Arkansas soybean crop is much cleaner (from the road) than I had expected. When we failed to get a lot of the residual herbicides activated all spring I was thinking, “Look out!”
Hopefully it is not the calm before the storm. The same would appear to hold true for the cotton crop in the parts of the state where I have seen it. I have only seen a couple of chopping crews so far. I am sure there are more, but last year I saw them everywhere.
It would be easy to say the cleaner crop is due to the big increase in LibertyLink cotton and soybeans. I am sure that is some of it, but there are some good-looking Roundup Ready crops out there as well. More and more folks seem to be learning that we are in a fight and they are hooking up to do whatever it takes to win.
One would think by now we would be past the Roundup Ready versus LibertyLink argument. We need every technology we can get. We have options for getting multiple modes of action into a weed control with residual herbicides. However, there must also be multiple modes of actions of postemergence herbicides used.
The problem in cotton is Liberty is the only postemergence herbicide still working on Palmer pigweed. That makes herbicide rotation very difficult without rotating crops. In soybeans we have the PPO inhibitors — Flexstar, Reflex, generics of these, Blazer and Cobra — still working. Therefore, by rotating technologies we can take advantage of these in conventional and Roundup Ready soybeans and Liberty in LibertyLink soybeans. We must get past the one technology versus the other thing and get into a rotation that allows us to take advantage of both.
Glufosinate or Liberty is the second-best herbicide I have ever seen, and the best one has failed on the driver weeds. The complacency toward glufosinate in a lot of circles astounds me. I am even hearing some saying, “Let’s just bypass Liberty and LibertyLink and move straight to the auxin herbicide (2,4-D and dicamba) era in a couple of years.” Folks that is nuts! Our last herbicide mode of action was registered 30 or so years ago. We do not have a new mode of action in sight, and we are complacent about the second-best herbicide I have seen in my career. There is something wrong with that picture.
We cannot afford to bypass anything now. Most people don’t yet know how good Liberty can be. Given the supply shortage this year, I wonder sometimes if the Bayer folks know how good this herbicide can be.
The future of weed control begins now with what we have left with the conventional herbicides, what we have left with glyphosate and then the four bullets left — Liberty, dicamba, 2,4-D and the HPPD inhibitors. I believe how we use these will determine whether or not we have herbicide technology left in 10 years. I believe the future begins with glufosinate or Liberty.
It also scares me how we are using the LibertyLink technology in the Mid-South. It is like we did not learn anything in the process of losing Roundup Ready. I see the Midwest continuing right down the same road we have been down.
We must somehow get our hands around the terms proactive and diversity and implement both right now. Unfortunately, I am afraid we will not get much help from industry. The real key in the fight would be if the big boys in industry could somehow come together on some recommendations for diverse weed management programs instead of just trying to kill each other off. If this does not happen, there is the very real possibility each of our four bullets left could go three years and out and then everybody loses. We could lose each technology before the seed companies can get fully ramped up to grow the seed for each.
Some say the answer is to get all the traits in the seed together. This would be great, but it is too far down the road. The weeds are begging for better cooperation now!